O Happy Day!

Sunday afternoon, my daughter and twin granddaughters invited me to the basement to watch the recently released DVD of Secretariat, a film I intended to watch at the theater, but never made it.

Secretariat is the epic story of the record setting Triple Crown winner of 1973, breaking a twenty five year drought of one horse winning the three big races; the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. The Seventies produced two more Triple Crown horses, Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978, followed by another drought of thirty two years and counting.

Film critics noted that Secretariat is a “cute cookie-cutter film, but one you’ve seen in many guises before” and a “feel good family film.” But regardless of the critics, as one who easily has my heart strings pulled and my tear ducts overwhelmed, Secretariat had its magic impact, truly giving me a few moments of happiness.

Horse racing is not high on my list of interests in sporting events, running slightly ahead of hockey and soccer. But what intrigued me was the tie into biblical and Christian themes. The biggest surprise of the film was its opening quotation from the book of Job from the Bible.

“Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray. He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles against his side, along with the flashing spear and lance. In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds. At the blast of the trumpet he snorts, ‘Aha!’ He catches the scent of battle from afar, the shout of commanders and the battle cry.” Job 39-19-25

But even more dominant was the use of “O Happy Day, when Jesus washed my sins away,” in the musical score. It was popularized by the Edwin Hawkins singers in 1969, hitting #4 on the U.S charts and selling seven million copies worldwide.

I don’t think there is any true connection between “Secretariat” and “O Happy Day,” but it was a great reminder that Triple Crowns, Super Bowls, Final Fours, Stanley Cups, World Series and World Cups, as exciting and fun as they are, especially when your team or horse wins, can at best bring limited happiness.

For the long lasting version, it is when Jesus washes your sins away. As Jesus noted, even the greatest spiritual victories can’t compare to the effects of forgiven sin. “…do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20

But for short term happiness, I recommend that you rent and enjoy Secretariat.

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